In citing the worst prayers in the world, I start with the thanksgiving of the Pharisee in the Gospel (Luke 18:10). He was thankful he was not like “other people.” His conversation with God was replete with political and religious prejudices against others whom he scorned. It was a bad prayer and you don’t have to take my word for it; listen to Jesus.
Unfortunately, there are Thanksgiving Day prayers that include the same kind of put downs so offensive to Christ. “Thank God we live in the greatest country in the world,” began one such prayer broadcast I heard on radio. The idea was that no one in the United States suffered from hunger or want – unless it was deserved. Similar praise was delivered to the political system of this country — as if no elections had ever been stolen or no politician had ever succumbed to graft or been led astray by bribery. I can’t share this false gloating over the United States because this country squanders its wealth wantonly all too often and doesn’t match up in comparison with other countries which have better health care, education and a superior quality of life.
Now, it is perfectly OK to be thankful for living in the United States, but it would be a form of idolatry to identify this nation with God’s will. While Divine Providence may have worked in the life of a particular individual or a family in this country, it is quite another thing to believe that God designed all of human history by making the United States his perfect model of the Kingdom on earth. A Thanksgiving Day prayer as grace before meals in this troubled year would be truer to the Gospel if it remembered those not so well off and made a commitment to work for social justice in the United States in gratitude for blessings received.
The prayer I heard on the radio was from outside of the Catholic tradition, and I hope that his kind of Thanksgiving Day prayer finds slim picking in Catholic America. At any rate, it qualifies this week as one of the worst prayers in the world.
Number two on the parade list is the so-called “Prayer for Obama,” that cites Psalm 109:8 and applies it to the President:
“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:
let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:
neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.”
You can buy T-shirts, Teddy bears, trinkets and coffee mugs with this “prayer.”
In biblical terms, this is not a prayer at all, but rather a curse. So here are so called “Christians” spending time and collecting bucks to curse the president of the United States, his wife and innocent children. Some prayer! Certainly, among the worst in the world!
But the granddaddy of bad prayers is, “Allahu Akbar!” uttered before shooting innocent people or setting off bombs to slaughter innocents to advance your own salvation. Such abuse by violence of God’s will was not invented at Fort Hood. After all, General Patton ordered the composition of a prayer for good weather so that thousands of Germans could be bombed. Army sharpshooters – like the famous Alvin York of the First World War – prayed to God for a good aim to kill people. And the tradition goes back to the Crusades and beyond. But the Muslim version is the most current and the one with the least amount of disguise as we approach Thanksgiving 2009. It is quite simply and without equivocation, “The Worst Prayer in the World!”
p.s. I owe the idea of the “world’s worst” to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. The content here, however, is all my own. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t use bad prayers.